Five in a Row: Papa Piccolo, part 2

We are continuing on our quest to find Papa Piccolo in Venice.  If  you care to catch up on part 1 of our journey, you can read about it here.



We were determined to find the edge of the main islands and forged ahead exploring the city’s canals, bridges, and alleys.

We passed the Venice Arsenal – the heart of the Venetian naval industry since the 12th century.  This was the first time I have been able to make it this far down the islands.  It was wonderful!  Most of the alleys belonged to us! (At least by Venice standards, that is.)

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We climbed on anchors… 20180426-DSC03209

Gazed at the boats whizzing through the lagoon…20180426-DSC03217

Inhaled the delightful aroma of wisteria… 20180426-DSC03220

And we even found a park! I think it may be the only playground in Venice.  It was a large garden at the bottom of the city.  Somehow, they seem to forget how tired their legs are when there is something to climb!20180426-DSC03223

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Just look at that wisteria!

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After “resting” our legs at the park, we had a long trek back to the hotel for our dinner reservations and it was time to pick up the pace… but not before we stopped to admire the sun slowly sinking over lagoon.  20180426-DSC0323520180426-DSC03230

We made it to dinner — albeit 10 minutes late — but perfectly on time by Italian standards.  And boy did it feel good to sit down and refuel!20180426-DSC03239

We finished up dinner just in time to check off one of my bucket list items — dancing in Piazza San Marco under the light of the moon while the musicians perform every favorite cliche Italian folk song.  That’s Amore!20180426-DSC0324520180426-DSC03244

Sorry for the blurry picture, but nighttime photography with dancing kids is not my forte!20180426-DSC0324720180426-DSC03254

Who could possibly resist another chance to chase pigeons?20180426-DSC0324920180426-DSC03253

They were amazed with the toy demonstrations from the “pesky” sales guys.  Being the only kids out there, we were definitely a target that night.20180426-DSC03248

On our way back to the hotel, we found all of the gondolas “parked”.  We counted them and noticed how the gondoliers (mostly) grouped them in fives.  20180426-DSC0326320180426-DSC0326620180426-DSC03267

We were ready to crash after such a long day of walking when Benjamin found How it’s Made on TV.  He was so thrilled and shouted, “That’s what I watch with grandpa!”  So we capped off a great day by learning how race cars are made.

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We woke up to another beautiful day feeling refreshed and ready for more!  One nice thing about staying in the heart of Venice, is that you have the place to yourself in the early mornings and late evenings.  I was surprised how much they loved wandering the streets — taking notice of every nook and cranny — and especially loving the dead ends.

Benjamin and Clara took turns leading the way and we spent almost the entire morning getting lost.

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I actually took a selfie! IMG_9329 2

I have to post another one, because… look at Clara’s “duck face”!  It was totally unprompted.IMG_9330 2

We eventually found ourselves in the Dosoduro neighborhood of Venice, known for being a tad more local than the other side of the Grand Canal.

We visited the Leonardo da Vinci museum.  It was a bit of a disappointment.  Usually da Vinici exhibits are very kid friendly, but not this one.  We go in trouble twice!  Once for being to loud and once because Benjamin tried to use a machine on his own.

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We stumbled upon the Squero San Trovaso, the oldest boatyard in Venice, which first opened in the 17th century.  We watched them at work for a while.  This gondola was waiting in the canal for some time.  When the workers were ready, they placed rollers on the ground and they all worked together to hoist the gondola out of the water.  It looked heavy!  We compared this to a garage where cars would be worked on and took note that everything requires maintenance to run well.

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Next stop… the Ca’ Macana for a mask painting class.  I highly recommend this if you are traveling to Venice with kids.  The shop was not a bit stingy with supplies and helped the kids with technique.  It was a highlight for all!

They had a huge selection of masks from which the kids could choose. (They had another large table in the back) and the masks felt very sturdy.20180427-DSC03306

After the difficult choice of choosing a mask, they selected a color scheme and got painting. 20180427-DSC0330920180427-DSC0330820180427-DSC0331020180427-DSC03311

The instructor taught them how to blend the colors together.20180427-DSC0331220180427-DSC03313

Time to dry!20180427-DSC03314

Now for the accouterment…20180427-DSC0332420180427-DSC0332720180427-DSC03330

All of that painting gave us an appetite for gelato!20180427-DSC03334

Not sure what is happening in this one, but… doesn’t Clara remind you of President Trump here? Haha!20180427-DSC03336

Our trip to Venice was finally complete after a much anticipated gondola ride.  We named the gondolier Luigi Barbero – just like in Papa Piccolo.  IMG_9333 2IMG_933720180427-DSC0335020180427-DSC0334320180427-DSC03347

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Great view of the Rialto Bridge!

Benjamin marveled at the water level overtaking the ground level of the houses. 20180427-DSC03287

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Some of us left the mask shop with painted faces too!

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We headed out of town in style…via water taxi.   Time to say goodbye.  20180427-DSC0337920180427-DSC0337520180427-DSC03374

Sadly, this brings our adventures with Papa Piccolo to a close.  We had such a fantastic time! The kids have turned a corner in their ability to travel and we had almost zero fighting and whining for a whole day and a half!  That is monumental!

I don’t know how much the kids will remember of this time, but I will treasure these memories in my heart forever.  Ciao bella Venezia! 

Five in a Row: Papa Piccolo, part 1

This week we jumped ahead to a selection in volume 1 of Five in a Row – Papa Piccolo.  Since it is set in Venice, I just had to fit it in before we say arrividerci to Italy.

Papa Piccolo is an aloof tomcat who rules the streets of Venice by night.  His life changes for the better when he becomes less selfish and lovingly decides to adopt two kittens — teaching them everything they need to know to survive on the streets.

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Before we even began the story, Benjamin got to work building a lego Venice.  So darling!   He even made a display with the books for the backdrop.

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He added Papa Piccolo!
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Love the gelato!
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Every canal needs an octopus!

We read many stories and facts about Venice and studied the journey of Marco Polo –   Benjamin loved hearing of his adventures.

We studied the book’s beautiful watercolor illustrations and created some of our own.  I guess I missed a picture of Clara’s. She decided to paint “all different kinds of pictures” instead.  I wish I had snapped a photo nonetheless.

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Benjamin’s Venice
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His Rialto Bridge

We discussed the qualities of fatherhood found in Papa Piccolo and how he had to sacrifice his own desires in order to care for the kittens responsibly.

Of course, we can’t examine fatherhood without including our perfect Father in heaven.  We discussed both God’s heart for orphans and also how He adopts us when we choose to believe and receive His Son Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior.  The Living Breathing God – Creator of the Universe – chooses us! And He delights in us despite of our broken, messy, wandering sinful nature.

Father of the fatherless and protector of widows is God in his holy habitation.

Psalm 68:5

He predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will.

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Then…we got to take our studies to Venice!  Though we live roughly an hour away, getting to Venice still feels like a lot of work and takes much longer than an hour.  When we finally arrived, the first bridge we happened upon was the Ponte Dei Tolentini – the very home of Papa Piccolo!  I believe I was way more enchanted with this than the kids  were, but Venice is tricky and NOT very well signed.  Kids would never understand.

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We slowly meandered through the alleyways while we made our way towards the hotel.

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We passed the Rialto Bridge and admired the view of the Grand Canal.  20180426-DSC0311720180426-DSC03125

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The Grand Canal

If you’ve been to Venice, you will appreciate how empty the Rialto was. 20180426-DSC03127

We stayed at the Hotel Bonvecchiati which was only about a 3 minute walk from Piazza San Marco and it was fantastic!  The room was huge by Venetian standards and had very updated amenities. I got an amazing rate as I was able to book last minute.

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This is the view from our room.  The canal was directly beneath and every now and then we’d be blessed with the delightful sound of a gondolier serenading his way through the canals while accompanied by an accordion.  The kind of atmosphere that makes my heart swoon.

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After soaking in the view and resting our feet, we had a reading of Papa Piccolo and ventured out for more exploring.

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Along the way, we kept our eyes open for some things we had learned about Venice, such as the fact that they use boats instead of cars.  We imagined what it would be like to live there and had fun searching for different kinds of boats.

We found police boats…  20180426-DSC03103

Postal boats…20180426-DSC03108

Construction boats…20180427-DSC03337

Garbage boats…20180427-DSC03380

Ambulance boats…20180427-DSC03296

Food delivery boats…20180426-DSC03277

And we think this was a laundry boat…(?) 20180426-DSC03278

We searched for vocabulary words from the story around the city — gilded decor, trinkets,  pots perched upon a ledge, sardines, and chiming bells to name a few.  We never found sardines, but plenty of other fish we thought cats might like to eat.

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One of our favorite things to play was eye spy with the Venetian flag and the winged lion.  We learned that the winged lion, the symbol of Venice, is holding an open book with the latin inscription Pax Tibi Marce Evangelista Meus:  Peace be unto thee Mark my evangelist.  When the book is open,  Venice is said to be at peace; when the book is closed, Venice is at war.  I have never seen the book closed.

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We logged a lot of time trying to catch pigeons in San Marco.

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After chasing pigeons and more exploring, it was definitely time for a gelato break.

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We loved the pizza faces!20180426-DSC03166

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We found another “tipping tower”.20180426-DSC03199

And best of all… we found Papa Piccolo!  He lived at the Acqua Alta bookstore and was the only cat we saw in Venice.

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The kids loved the Acqua Alta – especially seeing books piled up in gondolas and old bathtubs.  We discussed the flooding Venice is plagued with and how the gondolas and bathtubs help protect the books.  20180426-DSC03191

We braved the wobbly book stairs.

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Love those little legs on the side.

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We were greeted with this view at the top.

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They even had a book courtyard.  The musty, tattered, weathered books were intriguing for us all.

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This post is getting a bit too long.  Join us next time while we finish exploring Venice in an effort to find Papa Piccolo.

Skiing in Sappada

We went skiing in Sappada over the weekend.  Sappada is a cute little ski town in the Dolomites about 2 hours from us.  We always stay at the Hotel Haus Michaela.  The owner is so kind and helpful and the kids love her.  She  always gives them a bag of candy when we check-out and will customize their gelato order.  That is service!

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This was last year’s ski trip.  They’ve grown a lot!

Sappada has a perfect ski hill for kids.  I’m not sure if Clara will ever really take to it, but Benjamin is really flying now.  Wish I had pictures of him in action.

We also enjoyed Nevelandia – which translates to snow land.  It’s just a big snowy play land.  They have bounce houses, an ice skating rink, sledding and tubing, trampolines, and a lot of room for snow angels.  I wish I had taken more pictures, but picture taking with cold weather gear on is no small feat!

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Finally a legit snow angel!

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I went to look for Clara at one point and found her in this little cave.

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We were lucky and got about 4 inches of fresh snow the night we got there.

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I love the little alpine huts!

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This was Clara’s favorite ride ever!  I think she went around in this tube for 45 minutes. I thought she was going to sleep!

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We even got to play in a real igloo!

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We picked up this hand carved wooden mask at a local shop.  These masks are used for Carnevale and are typical of this area.

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I love this mask! The carver had even burned his name and date into the interior.

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We just happened to be in Sappada for Carnevale last year.  This is the full costume and a sample of more typical wooden masks.

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Bessich Winery Festa

Bessich Wines, one of the local wineries, put on a big wine tasting event.  An event I couldn’t miss on such a beautiful spring day.

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They held a little “bread making” class for the kids.

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Love these pudgy little hands
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anxiously awaiting the final product

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Gotta love a room full of demijohns filled to the brim with vino!

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We enjoyed a local lunch of frico (a patty of fried Montasio cheese and potatoes) and polenta.  The kids finally got to do quality control on their baked good.

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We sipped some wine while all of the kids went crazy in the bounce house.

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They even had a “horsey ride” through the vineyard.

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It’s quite a beautiful backdrop for the vineyard.  The mountains here always remind me of home.

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This horse got in big trouble for stopping to eat the grape leaves. IMG_5331

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Blue skies, a rare appearance from the sun, lots of local wine, and happy kids = a most delightful day!  Arrividerci!

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Our First Visitor!

My brother Adam, an amazingly talented artist,  came our way for a quick visit before he soaked in all of the art history Italy has to offer.  We met in Venice for the day.  He took in the museums and I wandered the alleys with the kids.

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If you want to experience one of the most miserable experiences of your life, take the big water bus.  Otherwise, the water taxi is totally worth the splurge.  Venice is one of those cities where you will blow through money faster than you could ever imagine.  I think it is best to mentally prepare yourself and enjoy your time.

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We were so lucky to have beautiful weather all weekend because it had been raining buckets for months!

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While wandering through Venice with the kids, we looked at the fish, chased bubbles, enjoyed gelato, and watched the gondolas row by.

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I think every kid in Venice logged time with the bubbles.  These guys must make a killing.

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We all dined at this lovely spot right outside of the hotel for dinner.  The hotel was wasn’t fancy by any means, but with a five minute walk to Piazza San Marco, the location couldn’t be beat.

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Our hotel

I left Venice with the kids as soon as possible as it is not a bit child friendly.  The crowds are insane, it’s just too much walking, and a bathroom is impossible to find!  My brother enjoyed another day getting lost in the alleys.

The next day, we showed him around Maniago, Lago di Barcis, and drove through the Dolomites.

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We enjoyed a coffee while the kids played at the playground.  Sister will always find a place to relax.

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Piazza Italia in Maniago

The last day of his visit we took  a day trip to Piran, Slovenia. Slovenia’s coastline only stretches 27 miles. Piran is located at the very tip of a narrow peninsula.  It’s old town is one of the best preserved historical towns anywhere on the Adriatic.   20160508-_DSC244020160508-_DSC2444

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Tartini Square named after the violinist Giuseppe Tartini

We enjoyed lunch and a good bottle of local Slovenian wine in the square.

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The kids had time to run around the square.

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We strolled through the old winding alleyways.

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We climbed the bell tower for spectacular views of the city and Tartini Square.  From up here we could hear a choir practicing on one of the balconies down below.  We never did figure out where the sound was coming from, but listening was treat!

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Hello down there!

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Laskos under the sun at this seaside cafe — does life get any better?!?

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Looks so inviting!

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We capped off our time in Piran with a gelato stop.  Benny was served his first ice cream cone.  He felt like such a hot shot.

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Looks like we missed another day of rain in Maniago and came home to a  beautiful rainbow.  We had a good visit with my brother and now he’s off to explore Italy’s endless treasures.

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Aquileia

The day after Christmas we took a quick jaunt to Aquileia. Also being an Italian holiday, we were lucky it was open (apparently Christmas is a three day event).

Founded in 181 BC, Aquileia was one of the largest and wealthiest cities in the Roman Empire.  It is also believed to be the last Roman city to remain unexcavated.

There was a nice nature walk from the Roman ruins leading up to the town center.

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Benny was so intrigued with this tree and believes candy lives behind the door. 

We visited the Basilica di Aquileia.  The basilica was originally built in 313 AD and rebuilt four different times.  Today it is Romanesque-Gothic style and has the most amazing 4th century mosaic floor.  They had elevated glass walkways around the perimeter.  I didn’t get any pictures inside, so I got these from basilicaaquileia.it.

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These mosaics had been covered up by tile and were uncovered around 1909.  I can’t imagine hiding this beautiful floor with boring tile!

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Under the bell tower is the crypt of excavations.  They had another elevated walkway to view the excavations and additional mosaics.  Benny loved the “secret pathways”.

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photo from basilicadiaquileia.it

After viewing the basilica, we had plenty of time to monkey around the gardens.

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The pyramids are urns corresponding to the life and burial of an old inhabitant of Aquileia. 

We had lunch.  Benny was THRILLED to be served water in a wine goblet.

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Trying to beat the fog rolling in. 

Andreis: Christmas Trees and Carvings

We visited a tiny village in the Dolomites known for it’s Christmas tree displays called Andreis.  Unknowingly, we took a  backroad to get there and with Derek not feeling well, the twists and turns were very unkind. The one lane Alpine roads are no joke.  It took us over an hour to get there and it turned out to be about 10 minutes behind Maniago!

Almost every home had a Christmas tree or wooden carving outside or peeking through the window.  20151224-_DSC2316

A playground is always a highlight!

The streets were filled with wooden carvings.

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I loved these wooden candles in planters all over the village!

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More trees…

I thought this display was adorable!

We stopped for lunch at the only small restaurant in the village.  They had the most delicious ham and cheese strudel which I believe both Derek and I have been dreaming about ever since.  We must return soon!

Beautiful village with stunning views!

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Please don’t fall through!!!

I love the look of these trees for some reason.

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Presepi in Poffabro

Poffabro is a village of  about 180 people.  Every single window had a unique handcrafted nativity scene. I believe the theme was crib between the cribs. I’m not quite sure what that means, but I wish I had known that before we went and I would’ve looked at them closer.

Our town Maniago was offering a free shuttle bus to village (about 10 minutes away) so we hopped on to check it out.

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Benny loved the bus!

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The kids loved looking at the “little villages” as Benny would say.  Some were quite large and intricate and others were tiny.

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I thought this was interesting.  I wondered why they were all buried…

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Vin Brule is always a good idea!

And of course, every town in Italy has a beautiful church.

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